Creative talent from Hamilton’s poorest areas – where Kiwi musician Stan Walker grew up – could be tapped with a planned $73.9 million Waikato Regional Theatre.
The singer reckons the hefty investment into performing arts will help mine the region’s “rough diamonds”.
Walker, who once attended Fairfield Intermediate and Hamilton Boys’ High, visited Hamilton on Tuesday to meet high school students across the Waikato with former Split Enz bassist Mike Chunn.
The Waikato Regional Theatre will open up creative pathways for youth, Kiwi singer Stan Walker says.
The duo hosted a workshop about the challenges of a career in music at Zeal Hamilton.
After an hour’s practice with Walker, 90 students sang a group rendition of his te reo song Aotearoa, alongside the singer.
Despite the singer’s well-documented battle with cancer, he was endlessly upbeat as he doled out hugs, selfies and advice to adoring teenagers on his way to the site of the future theatre in Victoria Street.
Groups such as Zeal, alongside the new theatre, will open up creative careers paths for youth, Walker said.
It’s something Walker says he never had growing up.
“I’ll always have a connection [to Hamilton],” Walker said. “Hopefully this is the beginning of something even greater to come.
“I reckon there’s a lot of rough diamonds here waiting to be given an opportunity.”
Designs for the performing arts facility are now complete, with 68 per cent of the theatre’s funding already confirmed. Philanthropic organisation Momentum Waikato has been tasked with steering fundraising initiatives for the project.
The first tangible work for the theatre set to begin in April.
The build would include an art gallery, retail space and a boutique five-star hotel.
He hopes to perform at the new theatre once it has been built, “if you’ll have me”.
While Walker was living in Hamilton, he grew up in Fairfield, one of the most deprived areas of the country.
“I grew up with a lot of talented people, where they were like street artists, singers, rappers, just like musicians, fighters.”
But too many kids there are dismissed as poor and naughty, he said.
“Well, I was that,” he said. “The hood is where you’re going to get the most talented people. They just haven’t been exposed to [arts] like everyone else has.
“I feel like the potential for a lot of those people here hasn’t been tapped into.”
Walker is set to tour New Zealand for the first time in five years at the end of this month.
Story by Stuff – Ruby Nyika